I thought I would try a little Latin lingo on you this week. Here it goes. Lex orandi lex credendi. The translation in English would be something like “the rule of praying is the rule of faith.” And the idea behind this motto from the Christian Tradition is that worship leads to theology.
Why does this matter? Well I’m glad you asked!
For starters, it suggests that there was a worshiping tradition first, and then there was the development of creeds and doctrines that reflected and safeguarded the way disciples worshiped and celebrated their Lord Jesus.
Commensurately, it suggests that if we worship differently than did the first believers and their successors, it very well may be that we are unwittingly adopting understandings that are doctrinally different than what was taught by our Lord and his apostles.
Take for example the way we address the one we worship. We are warned in the First Commandment: You shall have no other gods! So how are we to address the One True God? And why do we as Lutherans worship “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”?
Early on Christians worshiped Father, Son, and Holy Spirit when they offered prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. They believed Jesus’ testimony that he was the one pointed to and anticipated in the Hebrew Scriptures, in the Law and the Prophets. They knew Jesus addressed this God as “Father” and he taught his disciples to pray to “our Father”. Jesus also spoke of the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son’s very presence to be with believers until the end of the age. And so, Trinitarian language was embedded in the worship of the Christian community before the formation of the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity.
When lex orandi lex credendi is not appreciated you can witness all kinds of dangerous attempts of creating new worship forms, not the least of which are forms which fail to be Trinitarian…
Since You Asked…
What do Lutherans believe is given in Holy Communion?
“We believe, teach, and confess that in the Holy Supper the body and blood of Christ are truly and essentially present and are truly distributed and received with the bread and wine. We believe, teach, and confess that the words of the testament of Christ are to be understood in no other way than in their literal sense, and not as though the bread symbolized the absent body and the wine the absent blood of Christ, but that because of the sacramental union they are truly the body and blood of Christ” (Formula of Concord, Epitome, Art. VII.)
The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10 that the bread is “a participation in the Lord’s body.” If the Lord’s body were not truly present, the bread would perhaps be a participation in his spirit. But Paul says it is a participation in his body!